Breaking News: Welcome (back) to The TriangleBreaking News: Welcome (back) to The Triangle
Drexel’s response to a wake-up call for student safety | The Triangle

Drexel’s response to a wake-up call for student safety

Lancaster Walk is one of the most populated spots on Drexel’s campus, but it is mere blocks away from a crime scene. Being a minute’s dash away from something so serious has been residing with many Drexel students. (Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.)

Members of the Drexel community received a DrexelALERT Wednesday, Oct. 9 around 1:00 p.m. warning that a sexual assault incident involving a Drexel student was reported in the Powelton neighborhood near campus.

The sexual assault incident is reported to have occured just north of Drexel’s University City campus on the 3200 block of Winter Street in West Philadelphia. 

“At approximately 12:50 p.m., Drexel Police received a report of a rape of a female Drexel student inside a residence on the 3200 block of Winter Street,” Chief of Drexel Police and Vice President of Public Safety, Eileen Behr wrote in a public safety advisory Oct. 9. “The suspect is a black male, 5’5” tall, no facial hair, wearing a black hoodie, black pants, and black sneakers.”

The suspect was reported carrying a smartphone with a red case. He fled the scene in an unknown direction and is still at large. Police said he identified himself as “Tom” or “Thomas,” according to a story published Oct. 9 by NBC 10 News Philadelphia.

Reports say that the unidentified suspect followed the 22-year-old student into her home and said he was there to meet with “John,” which happens to be one of the woman’s roommates, NBC 10 reported. 

She sent a text to her roommate who said he wasn’t expecting anyone that day. 

The suspect attacked the woman, putting her in a headlock when she asked him to leave.

“He forced her upstairs to the second floor to a bedroom where he raped her,” Captain Mark Burgmann of the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit said. 

Drexel students in University City are on edge and the entire campus community is being told to remain on high alert.

A Town Hall was held Oct. 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Mitchell Auditorium for members of the Drexel community. At the meeting, the Office of Student Life, Drexel Police and the Office of Equality and Diversity shared information about the alleged incident and discussed efforts in the future. 

Approximately 30 people attended the town hall on Oct. 17. A panel of representatives included Paul Apicella, Title IX coordinator; Dr. Subir Sahu, Senior Vice President for Student Success; and Chief Eileen Behr, chief of Drexel Police Department and Vice President of Public Safety. A range of topics were discussed during the town hall including Drexel resources, which included self defense classes, student government and the on-campus 24/7 dispatch center. 

The panelists presented the University’s approach to safety on campus, which works to work with other public safety entities in University City such as Penn Police Department, Septa Safety and Security and the Philadelphia Police Department. 

The group also discussed the effects and trauma that the DrexelALERT may have on campus, concerns about confidentiality and security of housing on campus. 

As always, the Department of Public Safety advises students to travel in groups and in well-lit areas and to lock residences, vehicles and other valuables.

“The Department of Public Safety is encouraging members of the community to be on heightened awareness of their surroundings,” Behr wrote in a public safety advisory. “[Drexel community members’] efforts to stay well-informed and take preventive action will help in maintaining the safest possible environment on Drexel’s campuses.”

Anyone with information about the alleged incident should contact the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251. Drexel Police can be reached 24 hours, seven days a week at 215-895-2222.